In the wake of Willie McLaurin’s sudden resignation, Jonathan Howe has been named interim president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, the EC announced Friday (Aug. 18).
Howe, who has served the EC since 2019 as vice president for communications, will step into that role until the next EC trustee meeting Sept. 18–19 in Nashville, where the EC can officially elect an interim. Meanwhile, the search committee will begin accepting applications once again for the position.
“The SBC Executive Committee’s bylaws require that the Executive Committee officers appoint an existing SBC Executive Committee vice president to serve temporarily, pending full trustee board approval,” said Philip Robertson, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, in the statement. “Therefore, we have tasked [Howe] to step into that role in partnership with the officers until our next trustee meeting.
“At that trustee meeting,” Robertson added, “the full board of trustees will elect, without restrictions, a continuing interim president/CEO. Know that as chairman, I am committed to working alongside the 85 professional and gifted women and men, who represent Southern Baptists across our convention, to carry out the work with which we have been tasked, with purpose, transparency and reliability for such a time as this.”
The latest update follows the Aug. 17 announcement that McLaurin had resigned after admitting to falsifying his resume, specifically listing three schools among his academic achievements — North Carolina Central University, Duke University Divinity School and Hood Theological Seminary — where he did not attend. Neal Hughes, chairman of the search committee, confirmed three members of the search committee had contacted each institution, and all three confirmed McLaurin did not attend.
McLaurin, who was considered to be the latest frontrunner in the EC’s search for a new president, apologized for his actions in his resignation letter. “To the Southern Baptists who have placed their confidence in me and have encouraged me to pursue the role of president & CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, including pastors, state partners, entity servants, colleagues, and SBC African American friends, I offer my deepest apologies. Please forgive me for the harm or hurt that this has caused,” McLaurin said.
In response to McLaurin’s apology, SBC president Bart Barber later posted that day through X, the social media platform formerly called Twitter: “Biblical Christianity offers you one and only response to that plea, fellow Southern Baptists. Yes, Willie, I forgive you.”
For now, the search committee will continue their next phase of the process by accepting applicants for the position. Resumé submissions will be received via firstname.lastname@example.org through Sept. 30, said Neal Hughes, presidential search team chair.
Another update is expected during the upcoming EC meeting.